Every once in a while I engage in a round of comparisonitis. If you’re an entrepreneur, chances are you play this game too. The rules are pretty simple. Scroll through the Internet marvelling at all the people broadcasting that they took their business from zero to SIX FIGURES in just eight months or one year or fourteen nanoseconds. Make sure you’ve had coffee first, this is an exhausting game.
Playing comparisonitis is sort of like eating that eighth cookie (don’t judge). You know you shouldn’t but you just can’t help yourself. And kinda like eating that eighth cookie, it results in you feeling less than awesome.
So this got me thinking. Is six figures the only measure of success worth discussing?
Now I’m not knocking these business owners. Rock. On. This business hasn’t generated six figures yet, but you can bet it’s on my list. But it did get me thinking about how I define success in my business.
- Financial abundance. I don’t believe in a scarce universe and I definitely want to increase my bank account. Businesses have to make money, otherwise they’re a hobby. Money is a necessity in my life and creating it is as important to me as doing good work.
- Providing real value. I want my clients to feel like they got something more from our partnership than just the end product. Maybe that’s clarity, confidence, a new view of their business or just the relief that they picked someone who gets them.
- Clients I really like. Everyone who’s been in business for a while seems to end up with stories of less than awesome clients. I am so, so grateful that the vast majority of my clients are people I would definitely hang out with outside of work. It is so much easier to give and receive criticism when you actually like each other personally. And who doesn’t want to introduce new, ambitious, talented people to their lives? This is an enormous benefit of this business and not one I take lightly.
- Managing failure. Not everything works all the time. Sometimes you have a great idea that doesn’t sell. Sometimes what you thought was the most amazing design in the history of the Internet misses the mark. This is where it’s expected I say, “don’t quit” but sometimes? Totally quit. It’s okay to chuck something that isn’t working for you. If it’s not working, if it’s a failure, all the facepalms in the world won’t help fix it. You need to go back and figure out why. Managing the potholes makes it more likely to avoid them next time.
- Supporting other entrepreneurs. I love connecting people. I always seem to be the one saying, “I’ve got a guy/girl who’s awesome.” I know so many rockstars and I’ve learned so much from how they approach problems and how they celebrate wins. Despite the fact that on the surface many of us look like competitors, I view these people as my co-workers and I’m happy to recommend them.
- Creating work I want to add to my portfolio. Design requires a lot of problem solving and a lot of discarded attempts. “Okay” design is easy. “Great” is tough. For every finished work a client gets to review, there’s a mountain of ehhhh in a discard folder somewhere on my drive. Success is wading through the ehhhh swamp until I get to something shiny on the other side.
Of course a full picture of success is incomplete if we only look at business success. Personal measures of success are likely even more important, and help inform the business success.
- Friends. It seems an obvious one, but I consider myself super lucky to be friends with some kickass people. These are the people who always have your back, no matter how temporarily insane your behaviour. They simultaneously kick your ass and cheer your wins. I include family in this and I know not everyone is friends with their family. I’m happy that my family are among my bestest of buds.
- Having a friendly relationship with my ex-husband. I like my ex. He’s a good person and just because we aren’t married anymore, doesn’t mean we need to waste a lot of energy being angry. Too exhausting. Plus, we are raising kids together and it’s way easier to do that sometimes overwhelming job with someone you respect rather than someone who makes you want to claw your own skin off.
- Enjoying my kids. Being responsible for other people can be frustrating and exhausting, no matter how much you love them. Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in the work of parenting; the guidance, the care, the discipline. I’m trying to spend less time worrying about doing it right and more time enjoying my kids as individuals. How their brains work. How they interact with their friends. How they dance or sing or draw. What they want to be when they grow up. (“Artist” is currently leading with both of them. FTW!)
- Doing something OTHER than working. This sounds like a no-brainer but my to-do list, I imagine like a lot of people’s, is never bloody ending. Especially if you run a business, you never NEVER have “nothing” to do. So taking time to exercise or play or drink too many glasses of wine often becomes loaded with guilt over wasting time and not being productive enough. Success is reminding myself that life outside of work is non-negotiable.
A few months ago, my son and I saw Commander Hadfield speak. In the question and answer period he talked about how he focuses on buckets rather than bucket lists. Rather than worry about all the big things he has yet to do, he focuses on “filling his bucket” each day. This sticks with me. Ultimately, success boils down to how we want to feel — and I think the simple answer to that is “happy”. Would I like a six figure business? Yep. Do I need one to feel successful? Doesn’t seem like it.
How do you define success? Tell me in the comments.